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Thx Philly Hounds - my wkend (long)

j
jjinbklyn Feb 4, 2007 06:28 PM

Thanks to all the Philadelphia Hounds whose recommendations we took. We thoroughly enjoyed our weekend in your city.
Here's a re-cap, for anyone who is interested:
Arrived on Friday night (first Friday). We stayed at a small hotel in the Society Hill area (Morris House Hotel) which was not as comfortable as we'd have liked, but very well located. After gallery hopping a bit, we headed over to Ansill for a fabulous meal at the bar. Here's what we ate:
Scrambled duck egg with smoked trout and creme fraiche
Grilled scallions with Romesco sauce
Pork belly with spaetzle and arugula
Bone marrow crostini (teeny, but delicious)
Roasted Cauliflower
Green Salad with avocado
Scallop Ceviche
------ dessert -----
Cheese (ossau-iraty)
Grilled panini with chocolate and banana (don't bother with this one)

My favorites were the duck egg, the pork belly, the ceviche and the crostini. My husband's favorites were the scallions, the cauliflower, and the pork belly. So, in short, everything was really fabulous. We were seated at the bar, and our bartender was really attentive. Our water glasses were kept full to the rim. Our plates were refreshed and our bread basket re-filled without our having to ask. My only real criticism is the dessert - and maybe I just ordered poorly. I was going to order the chocolate-almond cake with vanilla lime sauce, but our server talked me out of it - it was the only dessert he didn't like. I was in a chocolate mood, so I ordered the panini instead. Bad idea - after all that interesting food, this felt like a desperate attempt at trendiness. The chocolate was fine, but the dessert as a whole was just boring. I should've known better and followed my gut. My husband's cheese was served at the perfect temperature with a nice selection of finely sliced bread and the perfect amount of membrillo, but it would have been nice to have an option to have three different cheeses instead of having to pick just one. The one he picked was delicious though. Also, the first 5 plates came out simultaneously (we ordered the first 5 first, the next 2 after we'd finished those). My husband liked this because he had his pick of what to eat first, next, etc. But I didn't like the fact that some of the food got unappealingly cold before we got to it. Overall though, this was a great meal with great service. It was the standout of our weekend.

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Next day, we visited the Barnes Collection and then came down for a late lunch at Snackbar... ohhhhh, to our extreme dismay, they aren't serving any food until 5pm these days. So, we found a great little spot on South Street, btw 16th & 17th called Apamate. It's a Spanish joint with a great little menu - tapas, sandwiches, salads, desserts, coffees. I ordered the grilled romaine salad with pine nuts and chorizo. Husband ordered a hot pork sandwich with a spicy aioli. Both of these things were really tasty, though the salad was definitely overpriced at $8.50. Luckily my husband agreed to go halves with me, otherwise I would have left hungry. Oh yeah, we started with a tapa of garlic soup (yum, but a tapa's all you need - very rich) and one of scrambled egg with grilled vegetables - very tasty. Luckily, that salad left us with room for dessert - 1/2 dozen churros with a tasting of 3 chocolates. Very satisfying, though the churros were not as light as they usually are in Spain. They were still delicious. The chocolate was great. We dipped in the Mexican and Spanish and drank the American as a chaser afterwards.

Dinner at Matyson's. Good, but not as good as I'd expected. Here's what worked:
Foie Gras appetizer - excellent - perfect sweet, salty, acidic and rich combos
Grilled octopus appetizer - tender and tasty
Short Rib entree - perfect for a cold night - mmmmm...
Less satisfying was the halibut I ordered - it was well cooked, and the accompaniments of wild mushrooms and salsify were delicious, but the fish got boring after a while. The sauce didn't do enough to keep it interesting.
Again, mixed reviews on dessert: My husband's apple crisp was great. Perfect balance of sweet, juicy fruit and crispy topping. We liked that the topping stayed crisp. The coconut custard pie that all the waiters were raving about, however, didn't do it for me. First of all, I love whipped cream, but there was so much on top of this pie that I could barely see it. And for some reason, the whipped cream was really dense - it had a texture more like cool whip. I don't know what they did - add gelatin maybe? Anyway, I scraped most of it off. The custard was really gooey - I like mine more, well, custardy. The chocolate ganache was a nice touch, but somewhat overwhelmed the taste of the whole. I ate half of it. I couldn't see a reason to finish it.
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Lunch next day (after touring Independence hall and other touristy sites) at Eulogy Belgian Tavern. Excellent beer, mussels and frites. Nice friendly atmosphere too.

Thanks again for all the recommendations. We look forward to coming back to Philly, though next time we'll likely have the kids in tow.

  1. h
    Hardart Feb 5, 2007 06:53 AM

    Thanks for the nice write-up. I've been to Ansill a few times, and am a fan, but one time, they did have really bizarre pacing issues with the meal -- things did not come out in a sensible order at all. We were offered some dessert wine as an apology, which worked for me.

    1. m
      Main Line Tracey Feb 5, 2007 04:59 AM

      Thanks for the great review!

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